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NUMBER 1: CHOOSING YOUR GRILL
Gas vs. Charcoal
The first decision you need to make is what kind of grill to use. Both grills produce great food, so choosing is basically a lifestyle choice—although some of us who are grill obsessed avoid making a choice, and use both!
If the grill fits…cook on it!
Ask yourself if you like to do the following to figure out which grill fits your lifestyle…
- Building, starting and maintaining the fire
- Disposing of ashes, cleaning the grill
- Portable, easy to move
- Costs less initially but charcoal has to be purchased for each cookout
- Preheats and is ready to cook in 10 minutes
- Low fire maintenance
- Easy to light and to control cooking temperature
- Easy to operate and cleanup
- Inexpensive to maintain
NUMBER 2: SHOPPING FOR A GRILL
So, you’ve decided to buy a new grill or perhaps your first grill. You should approach this purchase just like buying any other major appliance. First, determine your needs and your budget. Then do the research. You want to make sure that you get the maximum grill for the money.
As you are researching your purchase, consider the following points:
- How much will you use the grill? Are you are an every-night griller, weekly, monthly or a special occasion griller? For more frequent use, look for grills with heavy-duty enameled, stainless-steel or cast-iron cooking surfaces and a larger cooking surface.
- How many burners are there? If you are going to cook foods by indirect heat (and once you start grilling, you will definitely want to!) you need to make sure that your grill can be set for indirect heat. This means you need a minimum of two burners that go around the circumference of the cooking box. Three or more burners are even better. If in doubt, call the manufacturer before purchasing your grill.
- How sturdy is the grill? Will it roll or topple over in a strong wind? What if the neighbor’s dog comes sniffing? Feel free to kick the tires a bit before purchasing.
- Remember, if you buy the right grill, it will serve you well for years and you won’t have to replace it every year. If you are looking at gas grills, make sure the propane tank is a safe distance from the igniter and burners.
- What is the warranty? How long is the grill covered? When does the manufacturer recommend replacing the grill? What parts are covered, not covered? You should expect that any parts that a manufacturer doesn’t cover will need to be replaced. A well-made grill should last years, even decades before it needs to be replaced.
- Does the grill come with accessories that you will use? A side burner looks great on the showroom floor, but if you don’t already have a need for it, chances are you’ll end up wishing you had an extra work surface instead of a side burner. Also beware of too many shelves on a gas grill, some shelves can not be removed and thus all the food has to be under 4″ thick, meaning no grilled turkey, whole chicken, squash, roasts and other large foods. A glass window will blacken very quickly with use and runs the risk of breaking. If the accessory looks nifty, ask yourself the simple question: will I use it or is it just a gimmick?
- How large a grill do you need? For almost everyone, a standard size grill (3 or 4 burners) will suffice. But make sure that you don’t use this as your excuse to buy a grill that won’t go the distance.
- Remember, the better grill you buy, the more you will use your grill and the louder the applause you’ll get for your grilled meals! The grill always looks bigger in the store before you fill it with food to cook.
Now that you’ve thought about your grill needs, if you are like most of Americans today, you’re leaning towards the easy to light, easy to clean, gas grill. If you and/or your family still need convincing, read on. My informal poll of women tells me that 9 out of 10 of us grilling gals prefer gas to charcoal.
Grilling, Barbecue and Southern Foods Expert
Chef, Author, Media Personality
North Carolina native Elizabeth Karmel was raised on barbecue—at roadside stands, neighborhood cookouts and county fairs—but it wasn’t until she moved away from home that the barbecue love affair began. When it wasn’t at her fingertips, she had to learn how to smoke it herself and a pit-mistress was born.
Karmel, a.k.a. Grill Girl is a nationally respected authority on grilling, barbecue and Southern food. She is the founding Executive Chef of Hill Country Barbecue Market in NYC, Brooklyn and Washington, DC, and NYC and Brooklyn’s Hill Country Chicken. She developed the award-winning menu and flavor profiles from the meats to the sides and desserts for both restaurant concepts.
On July 4, 2012, The New York Times awarded Hill Country Barbecue Market NYC 2 stars and a glowing review that read like a love letter to barbecue and the Hill Country concept.
As a sought after media personality, Karmel writes for, and is frequently featured in an array of national magazines from Bon Appetit to Better Homes & Gardens, and was named one of the top 100 chefs by Saveur magazine. She appears regularly on all the network morning shows and is a guest judge on Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay and Iron Chef. She has appeared on a number of Food Network shows and hosted her own special on The Cooking Channel.
She writes a bi-monthly column for the Associated Press called The American Table and is the author of three acclaimed cookbooks. She designs an innovative line of outdoor cooking and kitchen tools, and recently introduced Elizabeth’s Everyday Essentials line of French porcelain by Revol.
Karmel is the founder of the decade-old, gender-breaking GirlsattheGrill.com. Follow her @GrillGirl, Instagram @ElizabethKarmel and like her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/ElizabethKarmel/201250523244938.